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Glyphosate deemed “probably carcinogenic”
Latinamerica Press
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Study concludes the highest-selling herbicide in the world is a human health hazard.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization, announced on Mar. 20 that the world’s most popular herbicide, glyphosate, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

In its report, the IARC noted that was assessed the carcinogenicity of five organophosphate pesticides, including glyphosate, and the insecticides malathion, diazinon, tetrachlorvinphos and parathion.

“Glyphosate currently has the highest global production volume of all herbicides,” said the IARC. “The largest use worldwide is in agriculture. The agricultural use of glyphosate has increased sharply since the development of crops that have been genetically modified to make them resistant to glyphosate. Glyphosate is also used in forestry, urban, and home applications. Glyphosate has been detected in the air during spraying, in water, and in food. The general population is exposed primarily through residence near sprayed areas.”

In the research, conducted since 2001 on humans, lab animals, and cells, the IARC found that glyphosate — known commercially as Roundup — “caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, although it gave negative results in tests on bacteria. One study in community residents reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) after glyphosate formulations were sprayed nearby.”

Javier Souza Casadinho, regional coordinator for the Latin American branch of the Pesticide Action Network and its Alternatives in Latin America (RAP-AL), said glyphosate is used in the production of “grains and oilseeds, walnuts, apples, tobacco, vegetables, oranges, yerba mate, and pine and eucalyptus trees.”

“We’ve documented how the use of glyphosate increased in relation to the expansion of farmland with transgenic soybeans and the emergence of resistance to this herbicide in wild plants,” he added.

After hearing the results of the IARC study, Hugh Grant, chairman and chief executive officer of glyphosate producer Monsanto, called the IARC report “junk science” and asked the international agency to amend it.

In a news release, Monsanto said that “all labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health and supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product. In fact, every glyphosate-based herbicide on the market meets the rigorous standards set by regulatory and health authorities to protect human health.”

“We believe conclusions about a matter as important as human safety MUST BE non-biased, thorough and based on quality science that adheres to internationally recognized standards,” the company added. “We join others in viewing IARC’s process and its assessment with strong skepticism. IARC has previously come under criticism for both its process and demonstrated bias.”

Death and devastation
However, there are facts that challenge Monsanto’s claims. Indiscriminate spraying with glyphosate for over two decades in Colombia to eliminate coca growth also affects other crops planted by farmers and indigenous communities in the vicinity. In late March, small aircraft fumigated coca fields in Puerto Libertador, in the northern department of Córdoba, at the same time destroying yucca and yam crops. The agro-chemical fell on 22-year-old Jader Andrés Paternina, who was working in a field, and fatally poisoned him.

The Colombian government has defended the program, which is largely financed by the United States, claiming that the glyphosate spray has reduced coca crops from 163,000 hectares in 2002 to 48,000 hectares in 2013. However, magazine Semana reports that from 1999 to 2014, at least 1.7 million hectares of coca fields have been sprayed.

In 2008, Ecuador filed a complaint against Colombia in the International Court of Justice at The Hague over aerial fumigation along the border, alleging that the spray harmed the environment and affected the health of area residents. In 2013, the countries reached a settlement in which Colombia agreed to avoid fumigation within 10 km of the border and pay US$15 million in damages.
—Latinamerica Press.

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